January 20, 2024 Kakahu Track (Day 115)

Another beautiful, hot day forecast for today. We got a slightly earlier start and drove a half hour east to the Kakahu Bush Track trailhead. You know you made it to the trailhead when you see the lime kiln. Built around 1876 and used intermittently until about 1900, it was used to burn limestone to produce burnt lime that was used for agriculture and the building industry.

The Kakahu Track begins on the ridge behind the kiln and follows a beautiful creek through forest that progressively changes from non-native pines (looking like Ponderosa Pines!) and big oaks/maples to native Podocarp/Broadleaf forest. This section of forest is the last large remnant of the native lowland Podocarp hardwood forest in the Canterbury region. New Zealand has 2 main types of native forest, the Beech forest that we hiked through in the Nelson Lakes Nat’l. Park and the Kahurangi Nat’l. Park in the north end of the South Island, and the Podocarp/broadleaf forest found mainly on the North Island and in pockets of low lying areas of the South Island. On the more tropical North Island the Podocarp forest also harbors the prehistoric looking tree ferns. A third forest type was introduced in the mid 1800’s as a commercial crop, the true conifers that are usually planted in plantations.

We hiked up through the forest that was deafening with insect buzzes and static sounds. The clicking and crackling sounds were almost like live electricity lines running along the ground!

We emerged at the top near the ‘Pinnacles’ a limestone outcrop that we hiked around.

After hiking around the pinnacles we hiked up to another outcrop viewpoint and could look east to the South Pacific Ocean! Hiking through sheep paddocks we re-entered the native forest, the large trees that emerge from the canopy are the native Podocarps, like this Kahikatea tree, which have cones and fruits.

We resumed hearing the deafening songs of the Cicadas, of which NZ has over 40 species! At one point they were so thick they were on the trunks of all the trees around us. I realized then that the ‘dust’ blowing and falling through the trees was not just leaf litter, but frass, bug poop! The light, papery specks covered the forest floor and blew all around us, a necessary component of a healthy forest! I just made a note to make sure I wash my hair thoroughly when we get home! The junction at the Balancing Rock closes the loop section of the trail and we began our downhill hike back to the kiln. We finished our hike, soaked in sweat, and had our picnic lunch before we headed back home for well deserved showers and a relaxing evening!

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